While the latest James Bond film Spectre fell a little shy of early opening weekend estimates, its $70 million domestic take still puts it at #2 on the all-time Bond opening weekend list. Moreover, the fllm is doing swimmingly overseas with $219 million to date, bringing its worldwide total to $289 million after just a couple of weeks in release. However, if you think that tally means Sony Pictures, MGM, and Eon Productions are rolling in the dough, you’re wrong. In fact, Spectre has to make an insane amount of money just to break even—specifically $650 million, per Variety.
Yes indeed, the 24th Bond movie won’t start turning a profit until it’s crossed well over the half-a-billion mark, which is kind of insane. The production budget was $250 million, plus over $100 million in P&A (ie. marketing), then one has to factor in the exhibitors fees and such. Once it’s all said and done, the cost to simply bring Spectre to fruition makes hitting a profit a rather difficult task, though it’s one that Eon, MGM, and Sony were game to attempt given that Skyfall went on to become the highest grossing Bond film of all time with a worldwide total of $1.1 billion.
While Skyfall was a runaway success all around, reviews for Spectre have been a bit less kind. Most industry insiders believe it’ll fall short of Skyfall’s worldwide total, but something around $700 million doesn’t seem out of the question. Additionally, should the film not reach the $650 million profit barrier, ancillary revenues from home entertainment and TV rights should alleviate some of the pressure put on the studios.
But this all points to a larger issue that’s plaguing Hollywood right now. When Steven Spielberg commented on the state of franchise filmmaking, saying that one day Hollywood was going to suffer a string of pricey misfires, Spectre is the kind of movie he was speaking to. Now Spectre will be far from a failure, but just imagine if the film had crashed and burned. A movie that needs $650 million just to break even already has the deck stacked against it, but if it falls way short of that goal, that’s a disaster for those that financed the picture. Throw together two or three of these in a short span of time, and a major paradigm shift could occur.
The fact is, studios keep making blockbusters because audiences keep seeing them, but in a world where the ways to consume media continue to broaden, studios have to keep upping the ante in order to make it worth the while to trek to a movie theater and shill out $18 for a ticket. As a result, you’re seeing higher and higher budgets, meaning the films are riskier and riskier from a studio perspective. In turn, since the studios are putting so much money on the line, the content of said films is becoming safer—give audiences what they want instead of trying to surprise them with something different (*cough* Jurassic World *cough*). And as China becomes a significant market where studios can make bank, the content also being tailored to a worldwide audience: simple plots/characters, big action.
Spectre is probably going to be fine. There’s a good chance it will hit that $650 million mark, and even if it doesn’t, it’ll come close enough. But looking ahead, these kinds of films can’t all be winners, and sooner or later folks are going to be pointing to Spielberg and saying “he told you so.”